Sustainability Victoria outlines state’s path to circular economy leader

circular economy Victoria

Sustainability Victoria has a vision for Victoria to become the national leader of circular economy within three years. How? Chief Executive Officer Matt Genever explains.

As Victoria’s population continues to grow, so too does the strain on resources and the environment. With the state set to swell to almost eight million residents over the coming decade, we face an increase in emissions from the production, use, consumption, and disposal of materials and waste. 

It’s not just the environment that suffers. Material usage is grossly inefficient and according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Waste Management Outlook 2024 report, management of household waste alone will cost the global economy a staggering USD $640.3 billion by 2050.  

However, the report’s modelling shows that by taking waste prevention and management measures, costs could be limited to USD $270.2 billion by 2050. More importantly, projections show that a circular economy model could in fact lead to a full net gain of USD $108.5 billion per year.

Sustainability Victoria recognises the time for change is now, which is why it has a renewed focus on supporting Victoria’s transition to a circular economy. Its vision over the next three years is for Victoria to become the national leader of circular economy.

Emergence of circularity 

Australia already faces scrutiny for its high carbon dioxide emissions per capita and low material productivity rates. As global policies and regulations increasingly prioritise low-emission, nature-positive materials, the nation’s international market competitiveness will decline. By shifting away from a linear system and embracing circularity, Australia reduces material-based emissions, reverses biodiversity loss, and restores precious natural capital. 

Changing to a circular economy will not only reduce the growing negative impacts on the environment, it will also generate new economic opportunities.

A report by KPMG suggests that a circular economy in key sectors could unlock a potential economic benefit of AUD $210 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and create an additional 17,000 jobs for Australia by 2047-48. 

This economic benefit applies to the waste industry. Fostering innovation in waste-to-resource technologies, such as advanced recycling and remanufacturing processes, can create new revenue streams, stimulate job growth, and enhance competitiveness in global markets. According to Access Economics, for every job in landfill, there are 3.3 times more jobs in recycling.

Matchmaking for change

Realising the vision of a circular economy requires concerted effort and collaboration from all sectors. Sustainability Victoria’s plan to accelerate circularity on behalf of the Victorian Government is a crucial step in this journey. 

By building the case, it can close the gap between recycling, design, and manufacturing, and drive the uptake of circular behaviours in communities. This will lay the groundwork for truly meaningful change. 

The emphasis on collaboration underscores the importance of collective action in achieving shared goals. There will need to be strong partnerships with industry, as well as collaboration with leading researchers and across whole-of government.

Sustainability Victoria is uniquely positioned to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to develop action plans that embed circular practices and deliver wide-ranging benefits. This has been integral to how Sustainability Victoria has delivered innovation and impact over its long history – matching up ideas to funding and connecting the right technology to those keen to trial new techniques – so that local markets and investments in Victoria grow, and those all-important recycled materials keep flowing through to their next life and use. 

Partnerships fostered to date across government, industry, business and universities are already delivering impact and building a foundation for a circular economy.

Transforming the industry 

Circularity can’t flourish without a vibrant recycling sector. Materials re-entering the economy need to be genuine commodities, reliable and high in quality. 

Investing in the right innovations, infrastructure, and technology is key for a circular transition, and Sustainability Victoria’s investment facilitation service is successfully matching prospective investors with circular economy opportunities. 

The investments have leveraged almost $333 million in private investment and $41.8 million in Federal Government investment, which are set to increase processing capacity by 34 per cent from 2020 to 2025. A further 100 active investment cases valued at more than $3.7 billion are in the works, with the potential to add 4.97 million tonnes of capacity and more than 1360 jobs to the sector.

The organics sector is burgeoning and is receiving a critical injection of investment from Sustainability Victoria – not only to process higher volume, but to produce better outputs. 

Biogro is establishing a Regional Organics Recovery Facility in the Bendigo region that will boost the capacity to process a diverse range of organic materials, while the funding of organics decontamination technology at Pinegro will enable a higher quality compost to be produced from kerbside food organics green organics (FOGO) and, at the same time, create new jobs. 

But investment in new ideas is not without risk and that’s where Sustainability Victoria can provide support – it can partner with businesses to de-risk ideas, provide resources, information, training, networking and events – so businesses can connect, collaborate and learn from each other.  

By building a foundation for a circular economy and accelerating new markets for recycled materials, as well as educating Victorians through statewide education and behaviour change campaigns, it can make the transition to a circular economy easier to navigate for all. 

The scale and pace of change required is significant and needs all parts of business and community to get involved. Sustainability Victoria is committed to deepening partnerships, brokering new collaborations and to open dialogue and knowledge sharing as it supports industry to leverage the opportunities and tackle new challenges in the future circular economy. By working together, the state will have a brighter future, faster.

If you have an idea to test, a problem to solve, research questions to answer contact: www.sustainability.vic.gov.au

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